Eminent Nigerian lawyers and a state governor yesterday faulted the explanations of suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, on how he got the foreign currencies he deposited in his domiciliary accounts and asked him to quit now that the odds still favour him.
Ahead of his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on Monday February 4, 2019, Onnoghen had given details on how he got the money to open the controversial domiciliary accounts.
But, in separate interviews with LEADERSHIP WEEKEND yesterday, the lawyers said that Justice Onnoghen would do himself good, give the judiciary a lease of life and integrity and his family and well-wishers a sense of honour and pride, by resigning from office.
They argued that if he takes a bow now, it will give him the opportunity to negotiate for soft-landing rather than giving explanations which will further criminalise him.
They also said that the question shall arise in the court for instance for him to explain how he got the money to start his ‘’Bureau De Change’’ business outfit.
Besides, the lawyers said that it is against the code of conduct for judicial officers for him to involve himself in other businesses, except farming.
It is not dignifying for him according to the lawyers to be listing items such as trading in foreign exchange (forex), AGRICODE, while other investment returns were from proceeds of his investments.
The lawyers insisted that there is no way the prosecution will not add these items as part of the charges brought against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) or any other courts he would be taken to for trial.
Rather than appearing before the courts he left 30-35 years back in the course of his judicial career to go and take a plea, he should muster enough courage to preserve the honour and prestige of his present position and take a bow.
Among lawyers, who advised Onnoghen to leave without further delay, is the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN).
He said: ‘’It is against the code of conduct of judicial officers to be involved in other businesses except agricultural production.
‘’Rather than deepening and deepening himself in the criminality, he should do himself a favour, give the judiciary a lease of life and integrity and his family and well-wishers a sense of honour and pride by resigning from office.
“The question shall be asked as to where he got the money to start the Bureau De Change business, and since it is against the code of conduct of his profession and that of civil service in general, the prosecution would be right to add that to charges brought against him.’’
In his own case, Barr Alasan Samaila said: ‘’The greatest casualty in this Justice Onnoghen foreign account saga is the image of the judiciary in Nigeria and outside world. It would be advisable for Justice Onnoghen to take a quiet exit instead for allowing the retinue of his defence counsel to be plunging him, his family name, the judiciary and the nation further and deeper in the mess called trial.
‘’The so-called AGRICODE, whatever that means to him can’t be taken for agricultural production business. It is euphemism for Bureau De Change which he is not entitled to be involved in as a judicial officer.
‘’All these explanation as to how he got the humongous foreign currency account balances and transactions won’t take away the age-long position that judges are allegedly trading with judgements they deliver in courts.
“No average Nigerian would believe him, irrespective of the explanation he gives, that these monies are not proceeds of sales of judgements,’’ he said.
In his view, Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN) said that Onnoghen cannot be prosecuted for forgetfulness
According to him, once a civil servant forgets to declare his asset and he was able to correct it, he cannot be prosecuted.
Raji said: “I don’t think he can be prosecuted for forgetfulness since he has been reminded and has